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JANUARY 11. 1911 












Delivered in the Hall of the House of Representatives 

JANUARY 11. 1911 




The North Carolina Historical Commission 

J. Beyan Grimes, Chairman, 

W. J. Peele, Raleigh. M. C. S. Noble, Chapel Hill. 

D. H. Hill, Raleigh. Thomas W. Bloukt, Roper. 

R. D. W. CoxxoR, Secretary, 

The Ransom Bust. 

On March 5, 1910, the North Carolina Historical Com- 
mission received the following communication from Hon. 

E. W. Winston, of the Ealeigh Bar : 

March 4, 1910. 

The North Carolina Historical Commission, Raleigh, N. G. 

Gentlemen: — I am ple?.sed to announce that I have in hand, or 
definitely promised, at least $900.00, and possibly $1,000.00, for the 
Eansom bust. You are, therefore, at liberty to contract for the same 
at this time. 

For the guidance of the artist, I wish to say that General Ransom's 
hat measure was 7% inches on the inside. He was G feet tall, and 
weighed 180 pounds. The marked characteristic of General Ransom 
was dignity and courtliness. He dressed in an exquisite fashion. He 
studied the life and character of the old Roman senators. He was a 
classic scholar. He was as brave as a lion and yet as tender as a woman. 
Indeed, with women and children he was always a prime favorite. 
While he was a Confederate General, and a fighting one at that, he laid 
down his arms at Appomattox forever. After that time, he became a 
citizen of the entire Union. I think that the artist will be interested 
in knowing that General Ransom was a Union Whig before the war, 
and opposed to the war, but that when hostilities began, he was an 
active participant on behalf of the South. General Ransom was per- 
haps as handsome a man as ever sat in the Senate. There was an 
atmosphere about him which all people felt. He was the center of 
every group. He was chary of his presence. He stayed away from the 
multitude except when in action. His friends were the great men of 
the Union, and included Republicans as well as Democrats. He voted 
to pension General Grant's widow. He was an intimate friend of Presi- 
dent Cleveland, and Mrs. Cleveland was exceedingly fond of him. On 
the whole, if I as an artist had the power to reproduce Senator Eansom 
in marble, I should select the grandest Roman senator that ever adorned 
the Forum, and would place Ransom's head on his body. Dignity, 
serenity, majesty and courtliness were his attributes. 

Trusting that the above sketch may serve the artist, 

Yours truly, R. W. Winston. 

At a meeting of the Historical Commission, held in the office 
of the Secretary of State at Raleigh, K C, March 10, 1910, 
the above letter was read, and the fund offered for the erection 
of a bust to Senator Eansom was accepted. The contract for 

4 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

the erection of the bust was accordingly made with Mr. 
Frederick Wellington Rnckstnhl, at that time in Paris. The 
bust was dolix'crcd. and set up in its niche in December, 
1910, and formally unveiled and presented to the State Jan- 
uary 11, 1011, in the Hall of the House of Eepresentatives 
at rjaleigh, in the ])resence of the General Assembly of 
North Carolina, the members of Senator Ransom's family, 
and a large audience. The ceremonies of the occasion con- 
sisted of the addresses printed in this bulletin. 

R. I). W. Connor, 
Secretary of ilie North Carolina Historical Commission. 

The Ransom Bust, 

Introductory Address. 


Chairman of the North Carolina Historical Commlasion . 

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

The State Historical Commission has invited you to join 
in celebrating an important event in the historical activities 
of the State. 

It has long been a reproach to North Carolinians that we 
have been careless of the memories of onr great men. As a 
State, we have always been poor, but we have been rich in 
men — high-minded men, who knew how to do and die if nec- 
essary, in the crises that confronted them. 

We have been proud of our State, proud of her achieve- 
ments and her traditions. We have gloried in hearth-stone 
tales of former generations, only to forget them in the busy 
struggles of life. We have written little and preserved even 
less, largely because we had no depositories for the safe keep- 
ing of our records. We are the beneficiaries of the con- 
structive statesmanship of the past, but in many cases the 
bodies of those devoted spirits whose deeds should be a 
glorious heritage to our people lie in unknown graves, their 
fame consigned to oblivion, their services unrecorded. 

We, in our generation, have been following the example 
of past generations who have forgotten, to be in turn forgot- 
ten. But a change is now coming over the spirit of our 

The State is beginning to realize that conserving the fair 
renown of her own great sons is her sacred duty. 

The North Carolina Historical Commission was created 
in 1903, and its duties and powers greatly enlarged in 1907. 
The work of the Historical Commission has not been confined 
to the duties required of it by the law creating it, but in the 
last two years its activities have been varied. It has classified, 

6 NoBTu Carolina JIistorkal Commission. 

arranged and tiled the executive letters of thirty governors, 
beginning with Governor Caswell in 1777, and ending with 
Governor Vance in 1879. There are 14,754 of these letters 
and documents, and now, for the first time, these manuscripts 
are availal)]o to stmlents of Xorth Carolina historv. 

The Historical Commission has also secured in the past 
two years ten fine private collections of valualile manuscripts, 
embracing nearly 12,000 documents of the highest value and 

It has had many items concerning North Carolina's colo- 
nial history cojficd from newspapers of other States. 

It has issued ten publications, which have been in great 
demand in many of the States of the Union. 

It has, through the enterju-ise of its Secretary, secured as 
a gift to the State from the Italian Government, a fine plaster 
replica of Canova's famous statue of Washington, made from 
the original model in the Canova Museum at Possagno, 
Italy. It will be remembered that the original was made by 
Canova for the State in 1820 and was destroyed when the 
capitol was burned in 1831. The replica can be seen in the 
rotunda. It is hoped that the General Assendjly will soon 
have this statue reproduced in marble. 

A notable feature of the work of the Historical Commis- 
sion has been the information about North Carolina fur- 
nished to visiting historians, students and original investi- 
gators from nearly half the States of the TTnion and some 
foreign countries. 

The growth of interest in North Carolina historical mat- 
ters by the people of the State, even in the past two years, 
has been remarkable and probably the greatest work of the 
Historical Commission has been done in the thousands of let- 
ters of correspondence with our own people about the history 
of the State. 

The Secretary of the Historical Commission has prepared 
three publications for the aid of teachers of North Carolina 
history in the annual celebration of North Carolina Day in 

The Kansom Bust. 7 

the public schools, and thousauds of these have been used in 
the schools of the State. 

The State is now not only preserving the records of her 
great deeds, bnt is, though tardily, following the example of 
other States and great peoples, by placing in our capitol 
marble busts that posterity may become familiar with the 
features of our great men. We have been slow, proverbially 
slow to move, but the movement has begun, and there is now 
no uncertainty as to results. 

One year ago we gathered here to inaugurate a new mm-e- 
ment in ISTorth Carolina, and invited you to witness the un- 
veiling of a marble bust to that great Carolinian, William A. 
Graham, Since that time the Historical Commission has 
been assured of the presentation to the State in the near 
future of busts of Governor Samuel Johnston, Chief Justice 
Thomas Euffin, Calvin H. Wiley, and another which we are 
yet unauthorized to announce. 

This evening we have met to unveil a bust of Matt W. 
Ransom, carved by that talented artist, F. W. Euckstuhl. 

Among those most responsible for the erection of this bust 
is Eobert W. Winston. Judge Winston is himself an able 
jurist, scholar and orator, and his subject is an ins]iiration 
to all ambitious, patriotic ISTorth Carolinians. He will 
speak to you of the "Life and Character of Matt W. Ran- 
som." He brings to his task an ability and scholarship wor- 
thy of his theme. Let us hear him. 


Matt Whitaker Ransom 


Cicero, consulting the god at Delphi how he should attain 
the most glory, the Pythoness answered, "By making your 
own genius and not the oj)inion of the people the guide of 
your life." 

These words of Plutarch nu^de an abiding impression 
upon I\ansom when he was but a youth, and they found 
abundant fruitage in his subsequent life and conduct. In 
1892 when a committee from that all-powerful organization, 
the Farmers' Alliance, waited upon the Senator with a re- 
quest to sign the ""Alliance Demands," embracing Free Sil- 
ver at the ratio of 10 to 1 and warehouse receipts for cotton, 
corn and tobacco as a medium of exchange, his reply took 
this form: said he, "Once upon a time, a dispute arose in 
Warren County as to which was the most desirable of all 
virtues, and the disputants, being unable to agree, decided 
to submit the question to my grandfather, and his answer 
was this : 'The most desirable of all virtues is courage, cour- 
age without which no other virtue can be fully exercised, 
and with which every other virtue can be fostered.' " This 
courageous refusal of Senator Ransom to yield to the de- 
mands of the Farmers" Alliance may or may not have been 
one cause of the do^vnfall of his party and the consequent 
loss of his seat in the Senate, but it assuredly gave Senator 
Ransom a secure place among civil heroes. 

The people of Xorth Carolina are fond of associating 
together the names of her great contemporary Senators, 
Vance and Ransom, and yet no two men were more dis- 
similar. Vance was a democrat. Ransom was an aristo- 
crat. The name of Vance brings before our mind's eye a 
War Governor — a Moses, if you please, leading his people 
throuo'h the horrors of war and the wilderness of reconstruc- 

TuE Ransom Bust. 9 

tiou, with vast crowds of people applauding his homely 
anecdote and his ridicule — Vance foremost in the hearts 
of his people. With the name of Eansom we associate sena- 
torial dignity and the very best exponent of a reunited coun- 
try. Kausom was without doubt the most truly national 
Democrat that has crossed the Potomac since 1860 to occupy 
a seat in the United States Senate, With him love of the 
Union was a consuming passion. When not yet thirty years 
of age, delivering the literary address at the University of 
ISTorth Carolina, and choosing as his theme "Dismemberment 
of the Union," he poured out his heart for the cause of the 
Union and in denunciation of Secession in these burning 
words: "Dismemberment would overthrow the Union and 
leave nothing but shame above its ruins ; it would draw a 
ruthless line across the Eepublic, although it passed over 
the grave of Washington and divided the ashes of the great 
Father of our country. With what plea can disunion ap- 
pear before the bar of this world, or the throne of another? 
It proposes as a remedy for evils, an evil before which all 
others sink into insignificance ; it suggests as a measure of 
honor an act which would cover the American name with 
dishonor as long as the earth remains — it holds up before us 
the bloody mantle of liberty, pierced with a thousand deadly 
wounds, and tells us that is the way to preserve freedom — • 
it shows us the temple of self-government wrapped in flames, 
and all that is valuable burning in the conflagration, and 
does not, and can not, point to one benefit conferred, one 
grievance redressed, one right restored by the awful sacrifice ; 
it is that spirit which would have the beautiful heavens with 
their rolling worlds of light, and the great central sun, 
around which all in harmony revolve, hurled into chaos and 
darkness because the little planet of Vesta, or some strag- 
gling comet happened to wander from its sphere. * * * 
Disunion will be the tomb in which all, all are buried, a 
tomb of ashes and infamy, 4n which dismal vaults in black 

10 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

succession open' on "sights of woe, regions of horror, doleful 
shades — without end.' " 

These are brave words, and thej accurately expressed 
the sentiment of a great majority of the people of Xorth 
Carolina till ]\Ir. Lincoln made his call for troops. What 
course such men as Kaiisom would have pursued had Presi- 
dent ]dneoln not made this call one can bnt conjecture. 
Union men in the South have ever been of the opinion that 
this actinn of the President was a great blunder, and that 
it solidified tlie entire kSouth, driving ^"irglnia and Xorth 
Carolina into the new Confederncy. Xo doubt it did, but 
what other cmirse cduld Pi'esident binc(dn have ]iursued and 
preserved the Union? Had he wiiited for the minds of men 
to grdW calm, his waiting would h;i\'c Ik en in vain and the 
SiMithern Confederacy unmolested — nnd grown into a (h'' 
fnrto go^-ernment and an accomplished fact — England, no 
donbt. wonld have recognized the new nation. P>e this as it 
may. the fall of Fort Sumter and the call for Xorth Carolina 
to fnrnish her quota of troops to invade South Carolina 
totally changed the aspect of aflairs. All over the State 
courageous and patriotic men had been loudly pleading the 
cause of the Union. At that very time a union and ]ieace 
assemblage had gathered in Wilkesboro and earnest men were 
nmking stirring appeals for the old flag. Vance, now fast 
growing to be the ]iopular idol, was in the very act of im- 
ploring the God of Xations to avert the awful catastrophe of 
civil war, and had lioth hands uplifted to TTigh Heaven, when 
suddenly some one in the crowd read the telegram an- 
nouncing the capture of Fort Sumter and Mr, Lincoln's call 
for troops. In describing the scene thereafter, Governor 
Vance said, "When these hands of mine were lowered, they 
fell by the side of a secessionist." 

IMatt Whitaker Eansom was born in Warren County, 
Xorth Carolina, October G, 1820, and lived to be seventy- 
eight years of age to the very day, dying October 6, 1 004. 
On his father's side he came of ffood Euixlish stoek. and on 

The Ransom Bust. 11 

his mother's side he was connected with the leaders of 
thought and with the strong men of Eastern Carolina. His 
grand-uncle, Nathaniel Macon, as was the custom with as- 
piring young men of that day, had been educated at Prince- 
ton, but our own University, under the wise management of 
Caldwell and Swain, was now beginning to take its place 
securely among the first colleges of the country, and so in 
January, 1844, young Matt Eansom, an impecunious youth 
of eighteen years, with no fortune save a brave heart and a 
noble ambition, entered our University at Chapel Hill. His 
college career was highly distinguished, indeed most honor- 
able to him. He was not only a leader among the students, 
but he deserved to lead them, for he was temperate in his 
habits, diligent in his studies, and the most prompt and 
faithful young man in the institution. One incident in his 
college life emphasizes his faithfulness to duty. In 1844 
Henry Clay, that idol of the Whig party, made his famous 
address in Raleigh, and people from far and near, especially 
loyal and enthusiastic Whigs, gathered to do him homage. 
Young Ransom, a student at Chapel Hill, and himself a 
dashing young Whig, remained away because he could not 
afford to neglect a single duty. Dr. Battle informs us that 
Ransom was the only member of his class who, during the 
entire college course, punctually attended the required five 
thousand exercises, consisting of prayers in the chapel, 
church on Sunday, and recitations during the week. 

Mr. Ransom had as his rival in college a man whose splen- 
did presence, noble ancestry, cultured mind, lofty and well- 
trained ambition, and whose early and tragic death has in- 
carnated him in the minds and hearts of true Carolinians as 
one of our heroes and martyrs — General James Johnston Pet- 
tigrew, who gave up his life at Falling Waters. Pettigrew 
excelled Ransom in mathematics. In all other studies Ran- 
som was his equal. When these young rivals graduated, 
James K. Polk, President of the United States, and himself 
a graduate of the University, honored the occasion with his 

12 NuKTu (Carolina IIistoeical Commission. 

|)i-(.'seiice. Keporters of the New Yorh Herald and other 
papers, after hearing the various addresses delivered from 
the rostrum, accorded the honors of the commencement occa- 
sion to young Matt IJansom, whose salntatury address is said 
to have been one of the best ever heard from a college student. 
A few years afterwards when Ransom, then Attorney-General 
of North Carolina, and the youngest man who has filled the 
position, returned to his University to make the commence- 
ment address, he expressed his sense of gratitude to one of 
the literary societies which had made his education possible, 
furnishing him the means of defraying his college expenses. 

After graduating, young Ransom returned to Warren 
County and began the practice of the law. His success as a 
lawyer was almost instantaneous, and as an advocate, espe- 
cially when the issue was one of life or death, he was quite 
without a peer. Of him V>. F. !Moore, the Xestor of the 
North Carolina Bar, remarked that he had an intellect of 
great strength and clearness, and that if he would but apply 
himself to the study of the law, no man Avould be his fellow. 
As a college student he had appreciated the Greek and 
Roman classics, and had sought to model his style after the 
orations of Cicero and Demosthenes, enriching his discourses 
by referring to the deeds and the sayings of the early phil- 
osophers and statesmen. x\mong modern orators, Mr. Web- 
ster was his model. There is a dignity, a majesty, an irre- 
sistible sweep about Webster's style that must always impress 
the true artist. Tts influence upon Senator Ransom's ora- 
tory may be seen in every line he spoke or wrote. 

It is little wonder that such a man as this soon gTew in 
the confidence of the people, and that when little more than a 
boy he was named as a Scott and Graham Presidential elec- 
tor and made a canvass of his district and of other parts of 
the State, which added to his already growing fame. As 
a lawyer, Ransom would go whenever duty called. Danger 
did not deter him. Fear was unknown to him. When the 
great English advocate, defending Queen Caroline against 

The Ransom Bust. 13 

the unjust attacks of King George, was admonished by 
friends that his line of defense might overthrow the king- 
dom, he replied that he would continue to do his duty by his 
client, and his full duty, even if thereby the kingdom of 
Great Britain was destroyed. This is the type of lawyer and 
of man that young Matt Ransom was growing to be. Men 
may differ as to his place in history, but all will agree that 
he was ever loyal to his friends, his clients and his country, 
and that he did not spare himself or count the cost when their 
interests were at stake. 

Soon after his canvass as a Whig elector, he was chosen 
by a Democratic Legislature, although he himself was a 
Whig, Attorney-General of the State of North Carolina. 
1^0 doubt his record as a student and his recent brilliant can- 
vass were the causes of this early promotion. But the law 
was irksome to him, and far too technical and exacting. He 
loved to till the soil and commune with nature. Like Wash- 
ington and Jefferson and ISTathaniel Macon, he took a larger 
view of things than the life of a lawyer afforded, and dealt 
with mankind as a whole, mankind struggling upward 
towards liberty and light. Like many another leader of 
thought, he studied law for the training of his mind, but 
practically abandoned it as a web of tangled precedents. 
Whatever his views, he shortly resigned the office of Attorney- 
General of North Carolina and removed to his wife's estate 
in Northampton County. 

Loving the Union, hating secession, and favoring internal 
improvements. Ransom naturally allied himself with the 
Whig party, the party of his ancestors. But this militant 
old party was fast nearing its end. What with espousing 
Kuow-nothingism and Anti-Catholicism it had fallen from 
its high estate, and was now becoming local and sectional. 
A man of the type of Matt Ransom could follow it no longer. 
He was himself the most catholic of mortals. He ever saw 
things in the large. With him a State was a small affair. 
It was the nation, the united, indissoluble nation, the nation 

14 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

from Maine to Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Pa- 
cific — the hc'])e of the oppressed of the entire universe, the 
couiitry which was worl^ing out the problem of self-govern- 
ment and making an abiding place for liberty, this it was 
that engaged his best thonght and animated his soul. Thou- 
sands of other true men remained loyal to the Whig party 
until it was crushed to death between the upper and nether 
millstones of fiery and unyielding Democracy — secession, on 
the one side, if you will, and the persistent and fanatical 
Abolition party on the other. Such men as Graham, and 
Badger, and IMorehead, and Vance were of this number, and 
they voted till the very last for Bell and Everett, dreading 
and sincerely dreading that the Democratic party under, 
Toombs and Yancey and Bhett would join hands with the 
Abolitionists of the jSTorth and precipitate war. With such 
as these, whether Boderico hilled Cas=io or Cassin killed 
Boderigo, 'tAvas their gain. In ISn^. for the reasons above 
assigned, ]\rr. Bansom severed his connection with the Whig 
party and became a Democrat, but not a War Democrat. 
Far from it. We delight to contemplate this young Caro- 
linian during the period from 1850 to ISGO. On January 
19, 1853, he was happily married to Martha E. Exum, and 
an interesting family of children was growing up about hiin. 
lie was honored and respected by the people of jSTorth Caro- 
lina. Twice he served Northampton County in the General 
iVssembly. He was pulsating with high ambition and an 
earnest desire to serve his country and keep her in the paths 
of peace, and withal, he was as contented a man as one of 
his temperament could be. But Mr. Bansom was never a 
social man, nor a jovial man. He did not keep open house, 
and his Northamjiton home was modest almost to plainness. 
He had few friends. When in Washington he lived alone, 
his family remaining in North Carolina, his apartments at 
the old Metropolitan being simple yet dignified. He rather 
tolerated than loved the populace, and he knew that they 

The Ransom Bust. 15 

did not love him. He cracked no jokes with them. When 
in a crowd he was manifestly restless and nervous and did 
all the' talking himself. To mingle with the people was an 
effort to him, but he was cordial, polite, majestic in manner; 
Chesterfield surely not more so. Eansom indeed had the 
same characteristic with Jefferson, seriousness of purpose. 
"Great minds," says Aristotle^ "are always of a nature origi- 
nally melanchol}'." Kansom was in a sense a solitary man. 
A few strong friends in each town in North Carolina he 
grappled to his heart with hoops of steel. These men he 
loved and trusted, and called affectionately by their Chris- 
tian names. All night long he would talk with them, and 
advise them, and encourage them. But as for the average 
man, he counted but little in Eansora's affections. 

Vast problems confronted the Southern man in the 50's — 
slavery, secession, the compromise measures, war. It was 
said on one side, "This republic can not endure half slave 
and half free," and on the other side it was said, "I will call 
the roll of my slaves from Bunker Hill monument." Mr. 
Clay thought that he had settled the question of slavery for 
all time by his Missouri Compromise, and if Mr. Clay had 
never sought the Presidency, it is within the range of reason 
that he would in his fertile brain have found a way out, but 
when Mr. Clay stood for the Presidency he must trim his 
sails to meet the requirements of the campaign, and it was 
dangerous for him to advocate even gradual abolition ; and 
so the slavery question was one which would not stay fixed. 
The escape of fugitive slaves to free territory, their capture 
and return, the admission of new States into the Union and 
whether their constitution should be "free" or "slave," wordy 
2onflicts in Congress and personal encounters between the 
champions of these contending forces, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" 
and other excitable fiction, the Dred Scott Decision and fire- 
sating speeches and editorials pro and con, were constant 
and increasing sources of irritation. At his home near the 
banks of the Roanoke, these stirring events were passing in 

in North Carolina Historical Commission. 

panoramic review before Mr. Ransom's eye. In his heart 
he despised the extremists of both sides. The appeal to a 
higher law than the Constitution to abolish slavery smote on 
his ear like a fire bell in the night. The assertion that the 
Constitution of onr country was a league w^ith the devil 
and a covenant with hell he resented with all the bitterness 
of his nature^ but he likewise knew that you could not repeal 
the great compromise measures affecting slavery and open up 
the new States to the admission of slaves without a great 
struggle, ending perhaps in civil war and running counter 
to the moral sense of the world, and above all Ransom and 
other old line "Whigs, and some Democrats as well, knew 
that sooner or later slavery had to go. The civilized world 
was against it. England had gotten rid of her last slave ter- 
ritory, and no civilized nation sanctioned slavery in its con- 

One of the finest spectacles this world has seen, or will 
see, is the conduct of Robert E. Lee, Matt W. Ransom, and 
other men w^ho loved the Union with all the intensity of their 
nature, when the time for fighting was at hand. It was not 
their war. They were against it. Governor Graham had 
raised his all-powerful voice throughout this State for the 
Union and the old flag. "Let's fight out our rights within 
the Union'' was their plea. But not so with the extremists. 
I make little doubt that Chandler, Wendell Phillips and Gar- 
rison were as much pleased when war was upon us as were 
Toombs, Yancey and Rhctt. The former would have dis- 
solved the Union to rid the northern half of this dismem- 
bered country of slavery; the latter would have dissolved the 
Union to retain slavery in the southern half. But when war 
actually came. Ransom and other peace men went to the 
front, fought bravely and made no complaints. "If we must 
fight," said they, "we will fight strangers. We will not 
fight our brothers and neighbors." Such conduct is an at- 
tribute of very high virtue, and it is the foundation stone 
upon which the men of the South are this day laving broad 

The Eansom Bust. 17 

and deep a civilization most attractive and enduring. Ran- 
som was opposed to slavery and favored its gradual abolition. 
Our Constitution nnglit have guaranteed slavery in its every 
line, but this would not have prevented its downfall. It 
was never meant that one hunnin being should have, hold, 
own and possess another human being, and when you grant 
that the negro is a human being, the case against slavery 
is made out. 

The attitude of Matt W. Ransom towards slavery and his 
conduct in the war which followed, mark him as a distinct 
type of the Southern man of his day. Disinterested, unsel- 
fish, brave, true to his convictions, and yet truer to his neigh- 
bors, his friends and his people — with men of this sort blood 
is ever thicker than water. He thought that the war was use- 
less and a crime. He thought that it could be averted, and 
like other men whose reasons were not dethroned by their 
hates and passions, he knew that the South, brave and cour- 
ageous though she was, could not stand up and fight the 
North, backed by the moral and financial support of the 
entire world. Vainly he hoped to avert civil war and its 
horrors. A student of Roman history, he knew what it 
meant for brother to contend against brother in mortal com- 
bat. He knew the unhappy condition of every country 
afflicted with civil war. PTe knew the story of Marius and 
Sulla, of Pompey and Caesar, of Charles I and Cromwell, 
and therefore, as a member of the Legislature from N^orth- 
ampton County in 1861, he was most active in securing the 
passage of a bill creating a Peace Commission, with instruc- 
t tions to repair to the capital of the new Confederacy and to 
I restore the relations of the seceding States to the Union. 
Three distinguished jSTorth Caroliniajis constituted the 
Montgomery Peace Commission. The Chairman of the 
Commission was David L. Swain, President of our Univer- 
sity, the other members being Matt W. Eansom, of North- 
ampton, and John L. Bridgers, of Edgecombe. Governor 
' Swain was a pronounced Union man, while Colonel Bridgers 


wM.s a War Deniot-rat. These men at once re])air( d to Mont- 
gomery in jmrsuance (if the I'esolntion of the General Assera- 
hlj, hut th( ii- task was a vain one. The war s])ii-it was all- 
jtei'vading. Ahram W, Venable was going to wipe nji all the 
l>li)0(l spilt in the war with his silk handkerchief. One in- 
fatuated Southern man was thoroughly cnn\inee(l that he 
rould whip a dozen Yankees, and in the early battles of the 
war some of our boys actually cautioned their conii-ades to 
■"walk easy'' or they would "scare the Yankees away before 
rhey could get a shot." Our Xortli Carolina Peace Com- 
mission found the new capital of the Confederacy atlame 
with martial music, with marching troi»i!s, with ofHccrs in 
gorgeous uniforms, b( aring new epaulettes, and with the 
tlashing eyes of thoughtless but beatitiftil women, and the 
whole scene dominated by that high, unconquerable sjiirit of 
the man of the South who counts not the odds. What could 
withstand these? But their glitter little moved Matt W. 
liansom. He was a peace man in Raleigh and he was a 
peace man in ]\Iontgomerv. Sadly he wrote his wife from 
this latter city that the war spirit was rtmning high, that 
men had lost tluir reasdu, aud, he added, that his own 
associates were doing little to assist him to check the rapid 
march to destruction. The mission proved a failure, and 
on the nth of February, ISOl, the Commission made its 
rcjxn-t to the Legislature of ISTorth Carolina, declaring that 
nothing could be accomplished. Events followed each other 
with great rapidity. On the 14th of April, 1861, Fort Sum- 
ter fell. On the 15th of April, 1861, Presi<lent Lincoln 
made his call for troops. Governor Ellis firmly and dis- 
dainfully replied that ISTorth Carolina would furnish no 
troops to coerce her Southern brethren, and at once called 
tlie General Assembly to meet in extraordinary session in 
the city of Raleigh on May 1, 1861. Pursuant to the call, 
the Legislature convened tipon the appointed day and issued 
a call for a convention of the people and for the assembling 
of 20,000 volunteers. 

The Ransom Bust. 19 

This call for volunteers had scarcely been made when 
Matt W. Ransom, the member from Northampton County, 
resigned his seat, volunteered as a private soldier in the 
ranks, bade farewell to these historic halls and went forth 
to defend his native State. On the 8th of May, 1861, he was 
commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel of the First Regiment of 
Infantry, and from this date until April 9, 18G5, when 
Appomattox put an end to Southern hopes, wherever duty 
called, or danger was the thickest, this brave man could 
always be found. 

Of General Ransom as a soldier I shall say but little. 
His record is too well known to require any extended com- 
ment. Suffice it to say that he rose by merit from Lieu- 
;enant-Colonel to Major-General in Lee's army ; that he 
3articipated in the battles of Seven Pines, Malvern Hill, 
Sharpsburg, Boone's Mill, Suffolk, Plymouth, Drewry's 
Bluff, Fort Steadman, Five Forks, and other battles around 
Petersburg; that he was wounded at Malvern Hill, and des- 
aerately wounded at Drewry's Bluff ; that when he was pro- 
noted to be Colonel of the Thirty-fifth Regiment, the officers 
)f his old command presented him with a handsome sword 
is a token of their love and admiration ; that his brigade 
vas often commended for bravery in the reports of his rank- 
ng officers ; that the Legislature of North Carolina and the 
^Confederate Congress each passed votes of thanks to Com- 
nander Cook, of the Ram "Albemarle," and to General Hoke 
md General Ransom and the officers and men of their re- 
pective commands for the brilliant victory at Plymouth, 
:nd that more precious than all else. Ransom's brigades so 
onducted themselves in battle and under the eye of Robert 
5. Lee, a man greater in defeat than the greatest of his vic- 
ors, as to secure his coveted meed of praise — "Ransom's two 
>rigades behaved most handsomely," Lee reported — and that 
vhen the curtain fell on this four years' drama of carnage, 
t Appomattox Ransom surrendered 41 officers and 391 en- 
isted men. General Ransom could never have made such 
soldier as Stonewall Jackson. To attain supreme excel- 

20 North Carolina Historical Commission'. 

lence in any dei^artment of human endeavor, one mnst know 
and love every detail of Lis work. To be a great soldier one 
must appreciate the value of the drill. Indeed, it is an 
absolute necessity. He must understand that an army must 
be trained until it moves with one will, with one purpose, 
and almost as one man. Stonewall Jackson knew this. In 
the cold winter of 1SG2, in the bleak mountains of North- 
ern Virginia, at Romney, Jackson trained and drilled bis 
men till they all but froze and mutinied, when the stern 
Puritan, sore and hurt by their conduct, promjitly tendered 
his resignation. 

At Aquia Creek, in 1891, General Ransom wrote t^ 
his wife that '"the stupid drill was very irksome, and that 
such things engaged small minds very anxiously, and that 
he did not take the field for this." The strength and the 
weakness of the average Southern army consisted in the 
individual valor and initiative of each officer and each pri- 
vate, while little attention was paid to the training and mili- 
tary manoeuvres of companies, regiments and brigades. 
Colonel Henderson, of the English Army, in his life of 
Stonewall Jackson, often refers to this fact. The result 
was practically an army of "stars" — a Mettus Curtius and 
an Horatius without number could be found enlisted under 
the "Stars and Bars," and Ransom w^as one of them. Ob- 
serve him at Five Forks. We can see him now, superb of 
figure, six feet tall, handsome as a prince, proud as Lucifer, 
picturesque as J. E. B. Stuart, brave as Jubal Early, splen- 
didly attired, astride his thoroughbred stallion — his favorite 
charger, "Ion." The battle is on. Philip H. Sheridan is 
commanding 25,000 well-equipped men and stands for the |( 
cause of the North. George Pickett is commanding 7,000 
half-ragged and half-starved Confederates, and he, together 
with his division commanders, Fitz. Lee and Matt W. Ran- 
som, stand for the cause of the South. General Sheridan 
executes a flank movement to cut off the Confederates from !(] 
their army at Petersburg. It is between four and five j^ 

The Ransom Bust. 21 

o'clock before the Union forces advance under Warren. Gen- 
eral Sheridan complains of the delay of his subordinate and 
relieves him of his command. Warren's corps finally ad- 
vances through the undefended lines on the left of the Con- 
federates, getting completely in their rear. Sheridan be- 
gins his attack with Ayers' Division on Ransom's extreme 
left, held by the Twenty-fourth Regiment. At first the 
enemy are resisted and several distinct charges are repulsed, 
but finally Griffin's Federal Division appears on the scene 
and it is followed by Crawford's. The thin gTay line of the 
Confederacy is swept away, and the Fifty-sixth, Twenty-fifth. 
Forty-ninth and Thirty-fifth Regiments are driven from their 
works. They form from time to time new lines of battle, 
?ntirely ignorant that the enemy have flanked them and are 
attacking Pickett in the rear with an overwhelming force. 
General Ransom conceives it his duty to make one final 
charge to break through the enveloping lines. One horse has 
been killed under him. Calling on his brigade to follow him, 
bareheaded. Ransom leads his brigade for the last time in 
a charge against the enemy. He emerges from the woods 
and is in front of his advancing line ; the enemy open fire. 
The smoke clears away and rider and horse are discovered 
prone upon the ground. The cry runs down the line that 
the General is shot and men rush to save him from capture, 
[t is even repeated in the Federal Army that Ransom has 
been killed, and a message to this effect is wired to Major- 
General Thomas, a kinsman of General Ransom. Suddenly 
IDaptain Johnson, of the Thirty-fifth, and Captain Sherrill, 
i)f the Twenty-ninth Regiments, rush forward and find Gen- 
eral Ransom pinioned under his horse and in danger of being 
crushed in the dying struggles of the noble animal. The 
memy has now closed in on both flanks and on the front, 
ind there is no hope of assistance, and yet there is no thought 
)f surrender. Under the darkness of the approaching night, 
ijreneral Ransom and the remnant of his men fall back 
:;hrough the small loop-hole left, emptying into the enemy's 

2i2 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

face their last cartridge. During the night, General Eansoni 
with his remaining troups unites with General Anderson's 
corps, and together with Fitzhugh Lee and Barringer's bri- 
gade, heroically ojipose the enemy's advance and slowly fall 
back within thcnr own lines.* 

AYhen General Kansom surrendered at xippomattox it was 
a complete surrender with no mental reservations. lie had 
made a good tight and had not won, but he could at least de- 
serve success. JN^oble were our Southern boys on the field 
of battle, but how much nobler in defeat I Lee showed us 
our duty, and Ransom followed the leadership of the great 
chieftain. Our duty was to remain quietly at home, obey 
the laws of the United States Government, and preserve an 
Anglo-Saxon civilization. After Ap])<)matttix came poverty, 
desolated farms, and decimated families, the Freedraan's 
Bureau, carpet-liaggers, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and 
Fifteenth Amendments, many of our wise leaders disfran- 
chised, and the ballot in the hands of our late slaves. To 
these great changes we of the South had to conform our 
civilization. How well we have done let even our former 
enemies now attest. During these exciting scenes, during 
the process of readjustment and rehabilitation, of becoming 
a portion of the Union once more, it is not invidious to say 
of General Bansom that North Carolina turned to him with 
as much confidence as to any of her noble sons, and she turned 
not in vain. What was accomplished by the conservative 
advisers and leaders after the Civil War has made possible 
the almost uniform reign of law, order and good feeling 
which has since prevailed in North Carolina, giving her the 
deserved reputation of being perhaps th(^ most law-abiding 
State south of the Fotomac. 

After the close of the war. General Bansoni again took up 
the thread of life, engaging both in the practice of the law 
and the tilling of the soil. During the next few years he 
mingled but little in politics, but he was not leading a use- 

• Description of Battle of Five Forks, taken largely from Col. \V. H. S. Burgwyn's .Ad- 
dress on Gen. Ransom. 

The Kansom Bisr. 23 

less or self-sufficient life. Eighteen hundred and sixty- 
eight, sixty-nine and seventy were dark days for North 
Carolina. This was the embryo state of her existence 
under the new order of things. What should Xorth Caro- 
lina be and what could she do ? Unwise sehoolma'nis 
from the North, over-zealous Abolitionists, and carpet- 
baggers Avere putting strange and wrong notions in the head> 
of our late slaves. The Legislature was dominated by the 
worst element of both whites and blacks, and bankrupted the 
State. jMany of our best men, who had participated in the 
late war, were not allowed to vote. Petty stealings and 
burnings were frequent ; the courts, now presided over for the 
most part by incompetent judges, either in sympathy with 
negro criminals or hostile to the old-time white man, refused 
to punish crime at all or punished it inadequately. In the 
Eastern counties the polls were literally surrounded by ne- 
groes, so that often many decent white men who could vote 
were unwilling to make the eft'ort, women were in terror, 
and chaos was imminent. The white people organized h> 
regulate matters, and the Ku-Klux Klan came into existence. 
Governor Holden retaliated by proclaiming martial law in 
the counties of Alamance and Caswell. Adolphus G. Moore. 
Esq., was arrested by Colonel George W. Kirk upon the 
charge of belonging to the Ku-Klux Klan and for complicity 
in the murder of J. W. Stevens, of Yanceyville. The pris- 
oner's attorneys, A. S. Merrimon and E. S. Parker, sued out 
a writ of habeas corpus before Chief Justice Pearson. To the 
demand of the officer of the law for the delivery of the pris- 
oner under the great writ of the State, Colonel Kirk made this 
reply, "Tell your judge that such things have played out. 
My orders come from the Governor, and I will obey none 
others." Upon reading the return of the officer, Judge Pear- 
son directs the Marshal of the Supreme Court to exhibit the 
writ to Governor Holden and to say to him that he had no 
power to disobey the writ of habeas corpus. The pity of it 
is that our areat Chief Justice further added that if the 

24- NoETii Cakolina Historical CoMiviissiON. 

Exec'uti\e does disobey the writ, tlie power ut' the Judiciary 
is exhausted and the responsibility must rest with the Gover- 
nor, II olden refuses to honor the writ, and sets forth his 
reasons for so d(jing at great length. jSTothing now remains 
but the trial of j\[r. j\Joore by a drum-head court martial; 
but not so. Graham, Badger, B. F. Moore and Judge Battle, 
and his two sons, Kemp P. and Richard H., hold a confer- 
ence in the city of Raleigh to consider this weighty matter. 
The minds of all of them instinctively turn to General 
Ransom on his jS^orthampton farm. They telegraph him 
to come to Raleigh. A conference is held, and Ransom sug- 
gests that the rights of the prisoner are protected by the 
Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United 
States, which had but lately been ratified. Armed with the 
petition for the w]'it of liaheas corpus, signed by -Tosiah Tur- 
ner, and also with a cojiy of this new amendment to the Con- 
stitution, which assuredly had not been intentionally passed 
for the purposes to which it was now to be put, liansom has- 
tens to Elizabeth City, the home of George W. Brooks, Dis- 
trict Judge of the United States. For several days and 
nights General Ransom and Judge Brooks discuss the matter 
and construe the new amendment. The Avrit is finally 
granted and is made returnable at Salisbui'v. The court 
convenes. The ])risoner is brought into court by military 
escort under the command of Colonel Kirk. The brave 
judge looks up from the bench, and observing these minions 
of a tyrannical and self-sufficient government in his court of 
justice, indignantly orders them out, discharges the prisoner, 
and taxes the costs of the entire proceeding against George 
W. Kirk. This brave act of Judge Brooks will be handed 
down in story and in song till the latest syllable of recorded 
time. He was not a profound judge, but he was an incor- 
ruptible one, and ho was as firm as he was honest. 

In 1870 Z. B. Vance was elected to the United States 
Senate. He was refused his seat by that body. Ransom 
was chosen by the succeeding Legislature to fill the position, 

The Ransom Bust. 25 

uiid took his seat on April 23, 1872. When Senator Ran- 
som had taken the oath of office, Senator Thurman, from his 
place in the Senate, arose and said : ''I take the liberty of 
expressing the satisfaction that I am sure all of you f( el that 
now, for the first time since 18G1, every seat in this body is 
filled, every State is represented. I think it is a matter that 
the country and the Senate may congratulate itself upon." 

We have considered ]\[att W. Ransom as a lawyer and 
soldier, and somewhat as an orator, but we have not yet con- 
sidered him in that forum which he graced and adorned for 
so great a length of time, and where he did his best work, 
as a Senator of the United States. During a quarter of a 
centurj^, save two years, he was i*^orth Carolina's senior 
Senator, and no State ever had a more faithful or efficient 
public servant. The first words spoken by him in a set 
speech in that august assemblage furnished the key to his 
after life and conduct. It was February 17, 1875, and the 
South and its attitude to and treatment of the negro was 
under consideration. Feeling was running high in the Sen- 
ate when General Ransom arose and said : ^'For nearly three 
years I have sat silently in this chamber, with the hope that 
by pursuing a course, as I thought, of impartial and patriotic 
duty toward all and every part of the country, I might have 
some influence in satisfying jSTorthern Senators that the 
South desired peace with the North and a restored and, fra- 
ternal Union of all the States of the Republic." He had sat 
in the Senate three years silent. He had heard his State 
and his section of our country abused unjustly. He could 
remain silent no longer, and his great speech made its im- 
press upon our distracted nation and enriched the literature 
of the times. 

He continued to pursue the course which he had adopted — 
one of silence — on all occasions, except now and then to 
pay a tribute to some dead Senator, or to utter a few sen- 
tences in a running debate. He knew full well that an 
acrimonious debate defeated its very purpose. It rekindled 

:^6 XoRTJi Carolina TIistorical CoMivrissioN. 

tires of sectional bate. Jt eoininccd uo one, and it proved 
nothing. Even when the great Ben Jlill made his famous 
reply to Mr. Blaine's attack, can anv one declare that at 
the time more good than harm was thci'eby accomplished? 
And so kScnator Ransom continued in his (piiet way to 
do his full duty, U])on the committees and around the 
conference tal)le. When it was proposed that Mrs. Grant, 
widow uf General Grant, receive a pension, Ransum voted 
f(U- the nuasure and against his party associates. When 
General Burnside ])a<sed away, General Kansom paid a hand- 
some tribute to his memory. His relations with the great 
Senators of our entire country, of both jxilitical parties, 
were always kind, and with many of them cordial and affec- 
tioiuUe. Edmunds and Thurman, (Vrnkling and (Torman. 
and Banuir and Bayard were his close friends and admirers. 
These Senators had heard his earnest appeal for the South, 
and his devout prayer that all sections of our common conn- 
try should bury their anger, that speech of so much sin- 
cerity, wortli and cai-nestness from which T have just quoted. 
They had seen him at the conclusion of that great speech of 
eight hours duration, carried bodily from the Senate cham- 
ber, exhausted l)y the exertions which he had undergone, and 
each and all knew that there Avas not a Senator in that cham- 
ber who would risk more or go further to give peace and 
quiet once more to our distracted country. 

And the supreme test often came to Ransom. It came in 
1876. Tilden had been elected President of the United 
States. Xearly all candid men conceded it. The South de- 
manded that he be seated at all hazards, even at the price of 
another fratricidal strife if need be. But Senator Ransom 
saw it otherwise. He rarely made mistakes u]ion great ques- 
tions. He had a cool head, a great fund of common sense, 
and an intuitive knowledge of the right and wrong of weighty 
matters. He and other conservative men of the South deter- 
mined, therefore, to settle this vexed question by arbitration 
and not bv force. And Senator Ransom concluded to do this 

The Eansom Bust. 27 

though, douhth S.S, it would cost him his seat in the Senate. 
None knew better than Senator Ransom that jSTorth Carolina 
would never forgive the man who ran up the white flag in the 
face of the enemy, no matter how imminent the danger. 
Under a resolution of Proctor Knott, a committee of five wa- 
appointed, who, in conjunction with seven from the Senate, 
should consider the whole question of the presidential elec- 
tion and of the disputed votes in the Electoral College, and 
who should recommend to Congress a course to be followed. 
The Senate committee consisted of Edmunds of Vermont. 
Morton of Indiana, Conkling of New York, Frelinghuysen of 
New Jersey, Thurman of Ohio, Bayard of Delaware, and 
Ransom of North Carolina. 

The labors of this commission were very great, but the 
ridicule heaped upon the entire scheme by the extremists of 
both sections was even greater. Their labors extended over 
many weeks and they were called upon to consider every 
conceivable device for choosing the commission to whom 
this matter should finally be left for arbitrament. At one 
time it was suggested that the Supreme Court of the United 
States be requested to pass upon the matter. The great 
question at issue was who should constitute the fifteenth man 
and cast the deciding vote. It was seriously considered that 
he be chosen by lot. It was at one time suggested that the 
fifteenth arbitrator be called from some other country. 
Lord Duiferin, who then happened to be in Canada, was 
humorously suggested. The bravery of this thing consisted 
in this, that Ransom and his Democratic colleagues from the 
South, even after they feared that they were not going to get 
a square deal in selecting the board of arbitrators, turned 
not back, but continued until the very end. Only a brave 
man is willing to lose when in losing he destroys himself 
and thereby saves his country. Such men were Ransom and 
Bayard and Thurman. And well they were, for a second 
civil war, following hard on the heels of the last one, would 
have been one too manv. As finally constituted, the Elec- 

-!.s Nt)irni Carolina Historical Commission. 

loral Commission consisted of five on the i)art of the Senate, 
iive on the part of the House, and five Judges from the 
Supreme Cuurt. Judge David Davis was to have been the 
fifteenth man, but he was unfortunately called from the Su- 
])rcme Court Bench t<i the United States Senate and was 
thereb}' rendered ineligible. As a last resort, Justice Brad- 
ley, of jN'ew York, was chosen to fill the unenviable position 
of the fifteenth man; he whose vote always made eight count 
• me more than seven. Senator Hansom lost his President, 
but ho heli)ed to save his country. 

In the life of Washington City, Senator Ransom was a 
{trinie factor: not that he went into Washington society, but 
the wives and daughters and families of Senators who spent 
their winters at the capital, and such women as Mrs. Cleve- 
land, and others, were quite overcome by the elegance of his 
manner and the graciousness of his demeanor. It was said 
indeed that ]\[rs. Cleveland could not believe her ears 
when she heard that Senator Bansom was not supporting 
her husband, in 1892, for the Presidency. She little knew 
the violent opposition to him in Xorth Carolina at that 
time, and how good men were actually charging that 
President Cleveland had been purchased, literally bought, 
by the gold syndicate. Mrs. Cleveland doubtless thought 
better of our State when in June, 1008, she received from 
that greatest of Democratic State Conventions in Charlotte a 
telegram of love and confidence on the death of her great 
husband. The next time Bansom met President Cleveland 
after the convention of 1892, at which Xorth Carolina had 
deserted the "Old Man" for David B. Hill, and his likes, he 
remarked, "Mr. President, I made two mistakes last fall. 
My first mistake was in holding my cotton too long, and my 
second mistake was in voting against you." 

In keeping with his duty to the whole nation, Senator Ran- 
som early conceived the idea that the capital of our country 
ought to be greatly improved, that the Potomac flats should 
be reclaimed and new parks provided, and he determined 

The Txansom Bust. 29 

that Washington City should have further assistance at the 
hands of the national government in its beautification and 
adornment. To this end, on the 13th day of December, 
1881, he offered a resolution raising a select committee on 
the condition of the Potomac River front. Senator Ransom 
was appointed chairman of this committee, a duty which be 
was well qualified to discharge. In the first place, he had 
spent most of his life near the Roanoke River, and he 
knew something about the Roanoke bottoms, and it may 
safely be said that any man who is capable of handling th(^ 
Roanoke bottoms will find the Potomac flats an easy prob- 
lem. In the next place, Senator Ransom fully appreciated 
the value of a great and magnificent capital, either to State 
or Nation. He knew what Paris had done for France, what 
London had done for England, what Berlin had done for 
Germany, and he knew that a people who would grow and 
prosper and command the respect and admiration of the 
world should not begrudge the money which is expended in 
the beautifying and adornment of their first political city, of 
their seat of government ; in a word. Senator Ransom knew 
the value of a great and all-pervading national pride. The 
appreciation which the citizens of Washington City showed to 
our senior Senator for this action of his was most gratifying 
to him. In a familiar letter written July 17, 1882, to his 
life-long friend. Colonel Wm. L. Saunders, he referred to his 
work on this select committee. "In Washington," he wrote. 
''I have made a big thing on the Potomac flats. I have cap- 
tured all Washington beyond question. I can not well tell 
you how I have taken the city." 

Senator Ransom was never deflected from his course in 
the Senate as a messenger of peac-^ and reconciliation. It 
was his influence and his vote in the Senate that confirmed 
Stanley Matthews as a Justice of the Supreme Court. But 
this action of the Senator brought down on his head the male- 
dictions of many good men at home. Was it not Stanley 
Matthews who had been sent by Hayes in 1876 as a visiting 

•"50 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

sitatesman to JSew Orleans, and was be not responsible in 
part for tbe defeat of Mr. Tildeii in tbe memorable contest 
of lyTG^ Did be not devise ways and means wbereby tbe 
I'eturns from l.ouisiana were lost to tbe Democrats ? lian- 
som examined into tbise matters and found tbe appointment 
ro be a good one, and again detied public sentiment at bome 
i)y bis vote to confirm. Tbe next year after Justice Mat- 
tbews took bis seat on tbe l)encb, tbe great case of United 
States V. Lee came up for decision. Tbe question involved 
was tbe title to "Arlington," tbe bome of General R. E. Lee. 
Tbe Court was badly divided. Four Justices, including tbe 
Cbicf Justice, were against tbe claim of General Lee's cbil- 
dren, but five of tbe Court were witb tbem. and Stanley ]\Iat- 
tbews' vote restored ''Arlington/' or its value, to tbe Leo 
beirs. We may well imagine tbat even Senator Ransom's 
critics now recogiiized tbe work of a master. 

For a great many years Senator Ransom was Democratic 
National Committeeman from Nortb Carolina. He was 
also Cbairman of tbe important Senate Committee on Com- 
merce. Perbaps tbe most useful services tbat be rendered 
bis State, along commercial lines, were by virtue of tbis 
]-»osition. He secured large appropriations for our rivers 
and barboi's. and be contributed very greatly to tbe commer- 
cial supremacy of our cbief seaport, Wilmington, by deepen- 
ing tbe cbannel of tbe Cape Fear River. Step by step be 
rose in tbe council cbambers of tbe nation, until finally the 
greatest bonor in tbe gift of tbe Senate — an bonor attained 
by no otber Soutbern man since 18G1 — was accorded to bim ; 
be was cbosen President pro iempore of tbe Senate and act- 
ing Vice-President. Anotber vote of Senator Ransom showed 
his character and his indej^endence. In LS03 a fierce panic 
was raging in the United States. Two remedies for the evil 
were suggested. They w^ere diametrically opposed. One 
remedy looked to the free coinage of silver at the rate of 16 to 
1, irres])ectivc of the act and conduct of any other nation on 
this subject. The other remedy looked to the placing of our 

The Ransom Bust. -il 

country ujion the gold standard, along with England, Ger- 
many and France. Something must be done at once. The 
credit of the country was imperiled. An acute panic of enor- 
mous proportions was prevailing. Expert financiers declared 
that the Silver Purchase Clause of the Sherman Act must be 
repealed at once or the result to our country would be most 
disastrous and the United States would become Mexicanized. 
Senator Ransom took his political life in his hand and voted 
to repeal the Silver Purchase Clause of the Sherman Act, and 
thereby estranged thousands of friends in his native State. 
Doubtless this intrepid conduct of our senior Senator again 
ingratiated him with the Sphinx of the White House. Grover 

It is said that Senator Ransom proposed to Senator Vance 
about this time that they should each take the stump against 
the Farmers' Alliance, stand boldly by the policy of Mr. 
Cleveland, and patiently await the result at the ballot box. 
It is said that Senator Vance, being a consistent believer in 
the white metal, declined so to do. We know that Walthall 
and George pursued this course in Mississippi, and that they 
remained in the Senate until they died. It is interesting to 
speculate upon the probable result if Vance and Ransom 
had pursued the course above indicated. 

In all the gi-eat councils of his party, Ransom took a high 
place. In the naming of its candidates for President and 
Vice-President, and in formulating the party creed, he might 
always be found on the side of conservatism and material 
progress. The gi'eat property interests of the country came 
to look upon him as one of the safest men at Washington. 
His friendship for Mr. Bayard, and his earnest desire to see 
him President of the United States, is well known. After 
the adjournment of the Senate each election year, Ransom 
would return to North Carolina and participate actively in 
the canvass, speaking from every stump assigned him by the 
chairman of his party, not selecting the large towns, but 
o-oina: into the remote sections and sometimes addressing 

;Jl' NoKTii Carolina Uistorical Commisskjn. 

sniiill audiences. The length of his speeches was usually 
about three hours, but no num ever (juit the meeting while 
liansom was speaking. lie was so earnest and dignitied, so 
courteous withal, that men were irresistibly drawn to him; 
and as for the old soldiers who had fought under him, they 
came to<:), to a man, and grasped his hand and brushed away 
the unbidden tear. In his speeches, even on the stump, he 
was never knowm to indulge in personalities. lie spoke 
courteously of his opponents, even those residing in remote 
States, but iu tierce and burning words he would arraign the 
conduct of the opposing party, and he would bring to bear 
upon the matters in dispute so many classic references, such 
praise of the deeds of our ancestors, such hope for his State 
and his country if his countrymen would but continue to 
follow in the paths of virtue and of truth, that even his po- 
litical opponents were dazed by his utterances, captivated by 
his loftiness and flattered by his attentions. Biennially the 
great Senator would lay by 100 bales of good middling cot- 
ton and send the proceeds to the accredited officials for cam- 
paign purposes. 

S( nator Ransom was the most temperate of men. He ab- 
solutely eschewed "whiskey and tobacco in every form, and 
his daily life at Washington was one round of service and of 
self-abnegation ; an orange, a cereal, and a cup of coffee for 
breakfast ; a slight lunch at noon, milk toast and a soft egg 
at supper sufficed for him, and yet his appearance was so 
rich, his demeanor so elegant and luxurious, and his views 
so liberal, that many JSTorth Carolinians adjudged him over- 
indulgent in these things. 

Senator Transom's course in the Senate on more than one 
occasion had its influence on legislation hostile to the South. 
Senators and Congressmen of extreme political views had 
concluded that the new amendments were in the South a 
nullity and that they must be given effect by means of Fed- 
eral troops or marshals to guard the polls and enable the 
freedmen to vote as they chose. When General Hayes was 
inaugurated President, Fnited States troops had been finally 

The Eansom Buar. 33 

withdrawn from tbe iSouth, but bitter and acrimonious de- 
bates in Congress continued, and it was openly charged that 
colored men were cheated of their rights or intimidated and 
had no voice in public matters. Among other remedies sug- 
gested was one to reduce representation in Congress to the 
basis of the votes actually cast and announced. To all 
charges of frand and force Southern Senators and Congress- 
men had replied that the colored man was ignorant and was 
not qualified to vote, but that as soon as he was educated and 
fit for citizenship he should be allowed to vote, and that the 
white people of the South were then engaged in the duty of 
educating the colored man for citizenship, and that the whole 
question was one for adjustment in each individual com- 
munity. This statement of Southern Senators and Congress- 
men was, for a long time, taken at its par value and seemed 
to put the question somewhat at rest, at least so long as the 
Republicans continued to hold the Presidency. But finally 
two things occurred which changed the aspect of affairs. In 
1884, largely by means of a solid South, the Democrats for 
the first time since the war elected a Democratic President 
of the United States, and thereupon Southern men of par- 
tisan and extreme views grew bolder in their utterances, 
declaring that the negro should never vote even if he were 
educated and qualified, and that the issue was one of race 
and not of fitness. In 1888 General Harrison defeated Mr. 
Cleveland for the Presidency, and the Republican party 
came into power again, and now under the leadership of 
Senator Hoar, it would make sure that the Democrats would 
not again elect their president by fraudulent electoral votes 
from the South ! They would remove the handicap of nearly 
150 electoral votes from the South going solidly in every 
election against the Grand Old Party, and this they would 
accomplish under the guidance of Senator Hoar by means 
of a Force Bill. I quote from Senator Hoar's Autobiography 
of Seventy Years: "In December, 1889, the Republican party 
succeeded to the legislative power in the country for the first 

34 NoETii (Jakolina Historical Commission. 

time ill fourteL'ii years. Since 1873 there had been a Demo- 
cratic Pre.-ideiit for four years, and a Democratic House or 
Senate or both for the rest of the time. There was a general 
belief on the |)art of the Jicpublicans that the House of 
Representatives, as constituted for fourteen years of that 
time, and that the Presidency itself when occupied by Mr. 
Clevehind. rc])rcsentcd nothing Init usurpation, by wdiich. 
in large di-tricts of the country, the will of the people hail 
been defeated. There were some faint denials at the time 
when these claims Avere made in either House of Congress 
as to electidiis in the Southern States. But nolxxly seems to 
deny now, that the charges were true. ]\Ir. Senator Tillman, 
of South Carolina, stated in my hearing in the Senate: 
'We took the Government away. We stuffed ballot boxes. 
We shot them. We are not ashamed of it. The Senator 
fi'om AVisconsin Avould have done the same thing. I see it 
in his eye right now. He would have done it. With that 
system — force, tissue ballots, etc., — we got tired ourselves. 
So we called a Constitutional Convention, and we eliminated, 
as I said, all of the colored people whom we could under the 
fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. I want to call your 
attention to the remarkable change that has come over the 
s]urit of the dream of the Republicans; to remind you, 
gentlemen of the Xorth, that your slogans of the past — 
brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God — have gone 
glimmering down the ages. The brotherhood of man exists 
no longer, because you shoot negroes in Illinois, when they 
come in competition with your labor, and we shoot them in 
South Carolina "when they come in competition with us in 
the matter of elections. You do not love them any better 
than we do. You used to pretend that you did ; but you no 
longer pretend except to get their votes. You deal with the 
Filipinos just as you deal with the negroes, only you treat 
them a heap worse.' No Democrat rose to deny his statement, 
and, as far as I know, no Democratic paper contradicted it. 
Tlie Republicans, who had elected President Harrison and 

The Kansom Bust. 35 

a Kepublican House in 1888, were agiecd, with very few 
exceptions, as to the duty of providing a remedy for this 
great wrong." 

Senator Hoar actively set about to purge and purify the 
Southern ballot box! In true New England fashion he 
consulted not only his associates in the Senate, taking special 
counsel of Senator Spooner, of Wisconsin, but also conferred 
freely with friends in the other House. Meantime, the 
House of Eepresentatives had appointed a select committee 
to consider and report a bill on this subject. The work of 
the committee was speedily accomplished. The bill was rap- 
idly put through the House and was sent over to the Senate. 
It had passed the House. It had the active support of a 
militant and great party, and it must now become a law. 
Senator Hoar declared that "it was a very simple measure," 
and Senator Hoar would make no slip, no mistake this time. 
He would go himself and see every Eepublican Senator, and 
obtain his opinion upon this question in advance. And go 
he did. And got their opinion, and it was favorable to his 
simple little bill. And the agreement which they all with 
one accord — this majority of the entire Senate — did sign 
with their hands and the original of which Senator Hoar had 
in his possession up to the day of his death, provided that 
Mr. Hoar's Federal election law should be taken up the very 
first day of the next session, and be pressed to the exclusion 
of all other business. Pursuant to this agreement. Senator 
Hoar's bill had the right of way at the December session. 
Day after day, and night after night it was debated. Par- 
liamentary tactics were resorted to. The hope of the South 
rose and fell. It seemed almost certain that this measure 
would become a law, and in its train would follow bloodshed, 
disorder, and demoralization at the South. A motion was 
finally made to lay it aside for other business, and, strange 
to relate, the motion prevailed by a bare majority. Senator 
Hoar could not understand how it all came about. How 
those Republican Senators who had promised him in writing 

36 NoKTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

to vote for the bill, should have finally voted against it. ''I 
never have known by what process of reasoning they recon- 
ciled their action with their word," Senator Hoar sadly re- 
marks on page 156 of his book. 

I think I can enlighten Senator Hoar upon this question. 
This bill was defeated by Matt W, Ransom, and other conserv- 
ative men in the Senate. He had waited years and years for 
jnst snch an occasion to serve his people. His votes had often 
been censured. He had often been misunderstood at home. 
Often-times he had been accused of truckling to the North, 
and not standing by the South. He had voted for pensioning 
the Northern soldiers. He had praised the great Northern 
dead, as they had passed away. He had mingled in social in- 
tercourse freely with the great Senators and their families of 
the opposite political party. He had declared on ^Memorial 
Day, in Raleigh, in May, 1870, "I thank God there are flowers 
enough in this beautiful land of the South to strew upon the 
graves of those who fell alike in the Gray and the Blue, and 
there are hearts pure and large enough and hands gentle and 
generous enough to perform the kindly duty.'' z\nd men of 
the North and men of the West knew that Ransom meant 
every word that he had said on this subject. And so when 
the critical time had arrived, and Ransom made his appeal 
to these men not to pass this iniquitous bill, not to strike 
down the people of the South, but to leave this matter to 
them for final settlement, trusting to their honor and trusting 
to their fairness, his appeal was not made in vain, and the 
Senators rallied around him, and the bill was defeated. Gor- 
man, of Maryland, was the Democratic leader in the great 
fight against the enactment of the Force Bill. A few years 
after all danger had passed, Senator Gorman was at a ban- 
quet in New York, when the question of the Force Bill was 
being discussed in a friendly fashion. It was then that Sen- 
ator Gorman said that more credit for the defeat of the Force 
Bill was due to Senator Ransom than to himself and all the 
other Senators combined. He declared that Senator Ran- 

The Eansom Bust. ;^7 

som could not be induced to leave the Senate Chamber either 
night or daj during the i^endency of the bill, that he was 
unwilling to relax his watchfulness for one minute, that he 
exercised all his powers of argument, persuasion^ defiance 
and threats, to secure votes in opposition to the bill, and 
prevent the support of it, that he was most resourceful and 
tactful in arguments, appeals, and parliamentary expedients 
to prevent the passage of the bill. ''Often times during these 
days," said Senator Gorman, "myself and others felt de- 
pressed — almost hopeless — but Ransom never lost faith or 
courage. At every suggestion of friend or foe of amend- 
ment, or amelioration of the provisions of the bill. Senator 
Ransom refused to listen, insisting that the bill was eternally 
and intrinsically wrong in principle, and cruel and unjust 
to his people, and that it must be defeated at all hazards." 
Senator Gorman likewise declared that but for Ransom, he 
verily believed that the Force Bill could not have been de- 
feated, that he was the most popular man at the time in the 
Senate, and that he secured in opposition to the bill some 
Senators whom none other, perhaps, could have influenced, 
and induced other Senators to remain neutral who, but for 
him would have espoused the passage of the bill ; when 
urged to take some rest and admonished that the nervous 
strain was too great for him. Senator Ransom turned a deaf 
ear to all appeals, and declared that he would die at his post 
in opposition to this bill rather than to permit such an in- 
famous measure to be fastened upon his people." 
"Hie labor, hoc opus est." 

One shudders as he thinks of the results that would have 
followed in the train of such a Force Bill. If Federal troops 
had taken part in Southern elections, violence and bloodshed 
would have ensued. Southern folk are much too hot-blooded 
for such restraints. So thoroughly did Senator Ransom and 
his colleagues do the work of opposition, that the Force Bill, 
and all like bills are, we trust, dead and buried forever. 

Of Senator Ransom as a statesman, Goldwin Smith de- 

38 North Carolina IIistortcai, Com^iission. 

elarcd That his value to the Southeni States was beyond 
coni])utatioiJ, and even Mr. Blaine saw in Kansom such 
moderation of views and agreealdcness of manner, as to give 
him great influence in the United States Senate. 

The fall elections of 1S04 were disastrous to the Demo- 
cratic party. This result was accomplished by a combination 
of the Eepublicans and Pdpnlists, and Senator Eansom was 
retired from the Senate in March, 1S05. Shortly there- 
after he was appointed by President Cle\'eland Ambassador 
to Mexico, which position he filled for about two years, resign- 
ing on account of the unfavorable climate and of a longing 
for the Old North State. Returning to tho simple pleasures 
of his country life, he brought with him not only the large 
salary, which the position of Ambassador to ]\rexico carries, 
but also a handsome stipend, greater than his entire salary, as 
arbitrator in a matter of much consequence. With these 
large sums of money, and with the ])roceeds of the sale of 
several abundant crops, and of timber cut from his bottom 
lands, he paid bis debts, added to bis estates, and placed him- 
self in a position of comfort and affluence for the remainder 
of his days. 

Perhaps no citizen of the State was ever more highly es- 
teemed, almost venerated, than was Senator Eansom, from 
the time he returned from Mexico to the day of his death. 
Wherever he went admiring throngs followed him, and he was 
ever spoken of as the Grand Old Eoman. Senator Ransom 
was devotedly attached to his wife and children. lie did not 
connect himself with any church, though he had a sustaining 
faith in God, and wrote earnest and frequent letters to Mrs. 
Ransom from the fields of l)attle, manifesting a desire and 
intent to enter the communion of the Protestant Episcopal 

Senator Ransom was a man of superb figure. He was full 
six feet tall, his weight was about two hundred pounds, his 
hair and beard, when he was a young man, were very dark. 
Tie had a prominent nose, his countenance was noble, and 

The Ransom Bdst. ;;".» 

his eye betokened the worth of the man. Ilis head was much 
above the average in size. His conversation was clean and 
chaste. His speeches were lofty and elevated. His illustra- 
tions and anecdotes were classic, and truly may it be said of 
him that his canvass of our State elevated and ennobled her 
citizenship. Senator Eansom was no such trained lawyer 
as Senator Badger. He was not a student and a scholar like 
Senator Graham. He had not the technical knowledge of 
Senator Haywood, nor was he a popular idol like Senator 
Vance. But in his influence w4th the President of the United 
States, with the Departments, and with his colleagiies in the 
Senate, and in the services which his peculiar talents en- 
abled him to render to the South, he was superior to them all. 
In fine, Ransom was the Senator — every inch of him. When 
he took his seat in that august body, he made a fixed resolve, 
so to conduct himself in his high office that the best thought 
of the w^orld would approve his conduct, and that no critic 
could point to IS^orth Carolina as a narrow or provincial 

Senator Ransom was no less fortunate in his death than in 
his long and brilliant career as orator, soldier, statesman. 
When Sir Walter Scott had gazed for the last time upon the 
beautiful Tweed and the hills beyond he turned to his son- 
in-law, Lockhart, and said : ''Be a good man, Lockhart, be 
a good man," and instantly passed away. Ransom's death 
was not unlike Scott's. For some months the venerable Sen- 
ator had not appeared to be in robust health. But it was 
the way with those heroic men not to complain. So his 
friends were not apprehensive. His devoted wife and 
daughter had not returned from their accustomed summer 
trip to Blowing Rock. Three of his sons were about the 
quiet country home. A beautiful October day was drawing 
to its close. The noble Senator had remained indoors dur- 
ing the day, and was sitting on the side of the bed, conversing 
with his sons when, suddenly, the swift messenger came to 
him, and the fearless old man, with a bri2;ht eye and sus- 

40 XoETii Carolina Uistoiucal Commissidn. 

taiuiug courage, turned to his boys and said, "Do right, boys, 
always do right. God bless your mother. I am going." 
Aud in an instant, he was indeed gone to his reward. 

The day after his death, Jose])h P. Caldwell, the Senator's 
friend and champion, under the editorial caption, "Dead, 
My Lords and Gentlemen," declared in broken accents that 
rhe greatest of Xorth Car<iliiiiaiis had answered the hnal 
summous. And Josephus Daniels, who had not always 
agreed with the Senator, said, editorially, that in many re- 
spects, he attained greater rejjutation than any other ciii/cn 
who has represented this State iu the Federal Congress. 
Can we, men of Carolina, measure uj) to this national stand- 
ard ? Shall we, as Eansom did, stand for large and great 
things? Can we catch the lesson of his life: Xo man shall 
advocate principles simply because they arc popular. No 
man shall resort to the cheap tricks of the demagogue to in- 
gratiate himself wdth the people. Xo public servant shall 
vote for a measure, simply because it is j^ojmlar, but he shall, 
in accordance with his best judgment, espouse only those 
eqmal measures which the mature thought of the world ap- 
proves, and he shall do all these things quietly, deliberately 
and unafraid. 

"For him, who in a hundred hattles stood 
Scorning the cannon's mouth, 
Grimy with flame and red with foeman's blood, 
For thy sweet sake, O Soutli ; 

Who, wise as brave, yiehled his conquered sword 

At a vain war's surcease, 
And spoke, thy champion still, the statesman's word 

In tlie calm halls of peace: 

Who pressed the ruddy wine to thy faint lips. 

Where tliy torn body lay, 
And saw afar time's white in sailing ships 

Bringing a happier day. 

Oh, mourn for him, dear land that gave him birth! 

Bow low thy sorrowing head! 
Let thy seared leaves fall silent on the earth 

Whereunder he lies dead ! 

In field and hall, in valor and in grace, 

In wisdom's livery. 
Gentle and brave, he moved with knightly pace 

A worthy son of thee ! " i 

'Matt \V. Ransom. By John Charles McNeill. Iu " Poems. Merry and Sad." 

The Ransom Bust. 41 

A Personal Tribute 


State Senator from the Twenty-sixth District. 

Mr. Chairman: 

Matt W. Eansom was a patriot, an orator, a soldier and 
a statesman. He was all that, and he was also a God-fearing, 
Christian gentleman. I am proud to say that he was my 
warm personal friend, and I am glad this opportunity is 
afforded me to pay an humble tribute to his honored mem- 

I have seen him amid the shock of battle as undaunted, 
cool and intrepid he sat upon his horse while amid the storm 
of bullets and plunging iron from the fiery cannon's mouth 
he led his cheering men to a glorious victory. 

I have seen his magnificent presence upon the hustings 
when for hours he held the listening multitude entranced 
with his matchless oratory, as with his eloquent tongue he 
pleaded with his people for the integrity of his State and 
for Anglo-Saxon supremacy. 

I have seen him upon the floor of the United States Senate 
where for twenty-four years he served his State and coun- 
try with such conspicuous ability, and where he was recog- 
nized as one of the great leaders in that greatest deliberative 
body on earth. There I have heard his voice in eloquent 
tones pleading for his stricken Southland, which he Lived 
so much. 

His place in history is among the Stale's inunortals, 
and his friends, and the people of the State honor themselves 
and honor the State in placing this splendid bust of hiiu in 
the Capitol among the State's dead statesmen, wliere it will 
be an inspiration to the youth of our land to stimulate their 
ambition to serve their State with love and fidelity as he did. 

General Kansom loved his friends, and no man had trn(>r, 

42 North (Jakolina Historical Commission. 

more loyal and devoted friends. His soldiers loved him and 
followed him wherever he led. The people loved him, and 
honored him with the highest position within the gift of the 
State. His devotion to North Carolina was nnbonnded, and 
there never was a time when he was not ready to make any 
saerifiee for her honor. 

He was an honest man, and his integrity and nprightness 
in both pnblic and private life, his splendid manners, bnt 
simple life, are a glorious heritage to his family and his 

Whether in war or in peace, in adversity or prosperity, 
for nearly half a century be was a leader, a defender and 
deliverer of our people. He had l)een with them on the 
march, at the eampfire, in the lurid flames of battle, in fam- 
ine and pestilence. TFe suffered with them amid the pangs 
of cold and hunger. 

As he led and guided them then, so when the terrible con- 
flict was over, amid the cruel, sorrowful days of reconstruc- 
tion, he guided and led them through a wilderness of woes 
back to freedom and peace, to a government of the people 
by the people and for the people. 

While h(> may have had deep and p(nverful impulses and 
resentments at times, his great heart always beat in tender 
sympathy and charity for the poor, the downtrodden and 

His magnanimity and sense of justice were deep and 
strong, and his kindly nature as sweet and tender as a 

If I could only do this gi'cat. good man, my friend, jus- 
tice ; if I could only portray, as his eloquent tongue could, 
his life and character and his virtues, it would give me su- 
preme joy. 

But his great deeds, his life and his virtues are enshrined 
in the hearts of a brave and affectionate people. 

"When he died he left a lofty name, 
A light, a landmark on the cliffs of fame." 

The Kansom Bust. 43 

Senator Ransom as a Private Citizen 


Representative from Northampton County. 

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: 

As the representative here of the good people of North- 
ampton County, the home of General Ransom, and as a 
member of the House of Representatives, I thank the His- 
torical Commission for the splendid bust of the soldier, states- 
man, and devoted patriot, which is an expression of your 
own public spirited patriotism, your appreciation of his 
gi"eat qualities of mind and soul, and of his noble deeds in 
war and in peace, and of your love of the ''True, the Beau- 
tiful and the Good.'' I shall ever remember with pride that 
I was so honored as to participate, although so feebly, with 
the statesmen and orators who have met here to do honor to 
him, who, while living, "crowned himself with living bays." 

You have been told in eloquent words, as only the scholar 
and orator could tell, of his heroic deeds in times that 
tried men's souls ; of his bravery and moral courage in 
times of peace no less than in times of war; and of his de- 
votion to duty, which nerved him to advocate the interests of 
his people, as he saw them, against their opinions some- 
times, unawed by impending political and iinancial ruin. It 
has been recited to you how he concentrated all his powers 
of mind and soul, while United States Senator, to the bring- 
ing about of a reconciliation between the lately hostile sec- 
tions for the salvation of his own loved Southland, and 
the glory of the whole country. You have been told how, 
by his wisdom, his tact, and his magnetic influence he, as 
no other man could have done, prevented the enactment of 
the Force Bill, which would probably have precipitated an- 
other war between the States, and would certainly have pro- 
longed the horrors of sectional discord for generations. You 

44 NcjRTii Car(jlina Historical Commission. 

have been luld how, when the best meu of the State were 
incarcerated, and were to be convicted without hiw, by the 
infamous I'^^irk, and the writ of habeas corpus was power- 
less, and the State "Judiciary was exhausted" in fact, the 
wisest and l)est lawyers and statesmen looked to Ransom as 
the only ]\roses who could solve the seeminiily insolvable prol> 
1cm, and how he, as ever, measured up to the iireat occasion, 
and with the persuasive powers, the persistency, and the mag- 
netism which he only possessed, influenced Judge Brooks, of 
the Federal C^ourt, to have the writ enforced, and thereby es- 
tablished the authority of law and civil government in North 
Carolina, and drove the gamblers and money changers out 
of the temple of government. Neither is it in my province 
to relate to you tliat^ on another occasion, in 1002, when the 
revenues of the State were inadequate to the appropriations 
made for the public schools, and when there was no au- 
thority from the Legislature to supply the deficiency, and 
it seemed that the public schools must be closed, how that 
most unselfish of patriots, the superb Ayeock, then gov- 
ernor of the State, whose magnificent powers of soul and 
mind were consecrated to the uplift of his people, called to- 
gether the wise men of the State to see if some way could 
not be devised whereby the honor of the State might be pre- 
served, and the doors of the public schools might be kept 
open to the children of the State. I say it is not my part 
to tell you that the noble Ransom came then again to the 
rescue of the State, and proposed to be one of fifty to give 
$250,000 to keep the schools open; and when that could not 
be, how he authorized the Governor to draw on him for 
$5,000 for that purpose, declaring that the schools should 
not close, — yet these are facts ! These themes were for 
stronger men, and you know how well they have done their 
part in your hearing to-night. 

It becomes me to tell you of General Ransom as the peo- 
ple at his home knew him, and as I knew him. Tn the few 
minutes which have been kindly allotted to me, T can but 

The Ransom Bust. 45 

touch upon some few of his acts, but I hope these will show 
you the underlying principles which guided and controlled 
his life. 

While he yet resided in his native county of Warren, he 
had wooed and won Miss Pattic Exum, one of the most fa- 
mous belles of Northampton, a county still noted for her 
beautiful and splendid women. She was cultured, modest, 
puie — a model Southern young woman — and no other civili- 
zation has produced such. They were married in 1853, 
while he was living in Warren, his native county. In 1856 
they moved to Northampton County, and lived on her mag- 
nificent Roanoke farm "Verona," five miles from Jackson. 
Mrs. Ransom was the owner of broad acres of Roanoke lands, 
and a large number of negroes, and of teams, etc., which she 
had inherited. Besides the staple crops of cotton and corn, 
to which these fertile lands were so well adapted, they had 
great pastures of clover and grasses on which roamed brood 
mares and colts, Jersey cows and calves, and sheep and frisk- 
ing lambs. Mrs. Ransom had a drove of one hundred tur- 
keys, and was a model housekeeper. Is it strange that they 
loved this spot so well ? It is now hallowed ground, for in it 
was buried General Ransom, beside his brilliant and noble 
son, Thomas R. Ransom, who was only permitted to view 
the Canaan of Fame, and who died a few years before his 
father, between whom was a most beautiful attachment. 
Here too, was buried their first born, a beautiful little girl, 
about whom he used to write so sweetly from the camp in the 
tender letters to Mrs. Ransom. These letters are models, 
breathing tenderest love, noblest ambition, and deepest grati- 
tude and strongest trust in God. 

Mrs. Ransom was in entire sympathy with her noble hus- 
band, and throughout their married life there was a mutual 
devotion and unity of purpose. General Ransom was always 
gallant, gentle, and devoted to her, even up to his death. Dr. 
H. W. Lewis, of Jackson, their family physician, who was 
frequently in their home, and others, have often told me 

4-6 NoKTii Caeolina Histokical Commission. 

of this beautiful relationship. Thej both loved the country, 
and the home life. They were both devoted to their children, 
and desired them educated at the home schools and at Hor- 
ner's, and at the State University. For these reasons (and 
for a long time their financial condition would have pre- 
vented it) ]\lrs. Kansom uevev lived in Washington. 

In 1SG7 he was farming very largely. While labor at that 
time was cheap, all the other expenses were very great. 
Corn sold for $7 or $S per barrel; flour for $15, and Western 
meat for 20 cents per pound ; and Peruvian guano, the only 
kind used then, sold for $80 per ton. Horses were also pro- 
portionately high. General Ransom expected to make 500 
bales of lint cotton ; on account of the extremely wet June and 
July and x\ugust, and the unusually early frosts, he did not 
make 50 bales. His was the experience of many other Roa- 
noke farmers. The result was that he lost nearly everything 
but Mrs. Ransom's land. ]\Irs. Ransom told me a few days 
ago that they had to deny themselves sugar and coffee the 
whole winter of 1SG7. Nothing daunted, he rented a home 
in Garysburg, moved his family there, and opened a law 
office across the Roanoke River at Weldon, where he estab- 
lished a lucrative practice which he retained so long as he 
could attend to it, for two or three years. But the home on 
the farm, aiul farm life were irresistibly attractive to him, 
and he could not but divide his time there. Born and reared 
on his father's farm, near the famous Shocco Springs, in 
Warren County, where the sweetest waters gushed from 
shaded springs at the foot of the rich, red clay hills, over- 
flowing into the murmuring brooklets, where man and beast 
were refreshed ; where the hillsides were carpeted Avith blos- 
soming clover and green pastures, on which horses and cows 
and sheep grazed and colts and calves and lambs gamboled; 
where the gentle breezes rolled the golden wheat fields into 
graceful ocean-like waves; where giant oaks bravely stood 
guard over the yet unconquered forests ; where the air was 
fragrant with the perfume of wild honeysuckle, and yellow 

The Ransom Bust. 47 

jessamine and apple blossoms ; where the mocking bird sang 
so sweetly, and the '^cock's shrill clarion," and deep bass of 
the big bullfrog, and the bob-white's tenor, and merry whistle 
and song of the happy plowboy made a grand chorus of 
melody ; and where, later on, the lovely blossoms developed 
into blushing peaches, golden apples, luscious grapes and the 
fleecy cotton and "the full corn in the ear," as the reward of 
labor and skill, and the barns were filled with corn and 
wheat — it was amid such scenes and surroundings as these, 
where surely the 'iand flowed with milk and honey" that 
Matt W. Ransom grew up from infancy to manhood. Is it 
any wonder that he always thereafter so loved the simple 
home-life on the farm ? Is it any wonder that the teeming 
ground, the generous Roanoke lands, were so attractive to 
him ? These memories never faded, and, as in all cases, 

"Time but the impie-^siun deeper makes. 
As streams their channel deeper wear." 

Here he communed with nature and imbibed that deep 
reference for nature's God. Amid such scenes, drinking 
the health-giving waters and inhaling the pure air was de- 
veloped that kingly form, that masterful intellect and 
breadth of soul which sympathized with all creatures that 
could love and suffer. Here he learned from the majestic 
and silent oaks to brave all assaults, whether, as he believed, 
from mistaken friends or bitter foes, and keep silent, await- 
ing vindication by time and cooler reason, having supreme 
faith in the justice of his cause. 

Like the noble old Roman, [NTathaniel Macon, his grand- 
uncle, he loved the soil, the simple life of the farm, and he 
loved fine cattle and had a great weakness for splendid horses. 
When he did not have one cent to spare, he could not resist 
the purchase of the famous stallion ''Red Dick," for $1,200. 
And Mrs. Ransom, with clearer judgment on such matters, 
uncomplainingly yielded to the gratification of this weak- 

48 iSToKTH Caeolina Historical Commission. 

You have been told about bis baving been elected to tbe 
United States Senate to fill tbe term for wbicb Governor 
Vance bad been elected, but wbicb bis unremoved disabili- 
ties prevented bim from serving, but you bave not been told 
tbat General Eansoni equally divided witb Governor Vance 
tbe salary of $5,000 allowed and paid bim tbe first year of 
tbis term. "^'i t sucb M-as tbe fact, and Govcnor Vance, soon 
after bis inauguration as Governor, wben it was suggested 
tbat infiuence would be exerted to bave bim elected United 
States Senator by tbe Legislature, to succeed General Ran- 
som, answered tbat be would not oppose Ransom, tbat be was 
bis friend ; tbat Ransom bad been paid tbe salary for tbe 
first year of tbe term, and equally divided it witb bim at a 
time wben it amounted to sometbing to bim, and tbat Ran- 
som did tbis without solicitation. They were both poor men 
then. Very few people ever knew of tbis generous act. His 
sympathies were broad as his thoughts were lofty. An in- 
cident, related by his friend and kinsman. Dr. L. J. Picot, 
(and incorporated in the valuable and splendid memorial 
address of Colonel W. II. S. Burgwyn), illustrates tbis 
phase : 

He rode upon a file of soldiers taking a prisoner to be shot. 
He inquired tbe cause, and finding that, upon being refused 
a furlough to spend one night with his wife and children, 
only a short distance from the camp, the soldier had deter- 
mined to see them once more, and return in time for duty; 
but his absence was detected, and be was forthwith captured, 
convicted of desertion and sentenced to be shot therefor. 
General Ransom's sj'mpatbies were enlisted. He told the 
escort not to execute the order until his return. Spurring 
his horse, in a few minutes he had returned from General 
Lee's headquarters, his horse in full gallop, waving tbe par- 
don which he had obtained. As Colonel Burgwyn remarks, 
"it is of pathetic interest to know tbat, on tbe next day that 
soldier was killed in the forefront of battle by a bullet pierc- 
ing his heart."' Is it any wonder that his soldiers loved and 

The Ransom Bust. 49 

almost worsbipix'd bim '\ I have met many of his soldiers at 
home and in the far western part of the State, but I have 
never seen one of them that was not devoted to him. He 
shared with them all the hardships of war and camp life, 
and took a personal interest in each of them. He opened his 
bosom to his soldiers and bared his breast to the enemy. He 
exposed himself and led them in the thickest of the fight. 

In the battle of Plymouth, pontoon bridges had been ar- 
ranged for the crossing of Conley Creek by his infantry, in 
the attack, and he was riding horse-back. His horse got 
stuck in the mud in the creek while he was leading the charge. 
He immediately jumped over the horse's head, pulled him- 
self across the creek — he couldn't swim — and led the charge 
on foot, and carried the position. The great victory did not 
cause him to forget his faithful but unfortunate steed, and, 
so soon as he could he had a squad of men to prize him out 
of the mud alive, and afterwards returned him to the friend 
who had loaned him to him, Mr. Day, of Halifax, the 
father of the brilliant Captain ^Y. H. Day. This incident 
was also told me by Dr. Picot. General Ransom was a true 
l^orth Carolinian of the old school — he did not parade his 
gallant or generous acts, and only those very near him ever 
learned of them from him. 

'Twas the same in times of peace. On one occasion, 
about 1868, in Weldon, seven hundred men, many of them 
clad in second-hand Federal uniforms, and with banners and 
some sabers, led by negToes who had served in the Union 
army, were parading the streets, over-awing the people, and 
inflaming the negroes generally. The situation was serious 
and the white people dreaded the outcome. When the ne- 
groes were at the height of their orgies. General Ransom 
came up and the white men crowded around him for counsel 
and leadership. He soon took matters in charge, and with 
only two men went up to the leader, some considerable dis- 
tance off. His commanding figure and utter disregard of 

50 XoKTii Carolina Historical Commissioiv. 

tlioir arms, orgaiiizatioii and numbers carried consternation 
and in a lew minutes they bad disbanded and scattered and 
felt relieved that be was so lenient to tbem. 

I do not believe, after reviewing bis record in tbe United 
States Senate and on all dccasions, seeing- bow be bad, in 
tbe most trying crises niid against ()l)stacles insui'm<:)nntable 
to all others, he achieved his object by ways impossil)le to 
any but himself, that tbe world has ever produced a greater 
diplomat. He knew and I'espected himself — that gave him 
poise and made him a leader, lie knew and respected and 
symjiatbizcd with others — that made him a democrat. 

]5ut I have digressed. Let us come back to Xorthamp- 
ton and to his life as a pri\ate citizen and fa)-mer. the largest 
and most successful farmer — cotton raiser, at least, in iSTorth 

I am sure he loaned or gave a hundred horses and mules 
to ])0or deserving farmers in Xorthampton County at dif- 
ferent times during many years, even when be himself bad 
not mueli else but horses. I have learned of scores of such 
cases — but not ever directly or indirectly from him. He 
never denied a worthy Confederate soldier or poor neighbor. 
I have learned from others that be would give from $10 to 
$50 to relieve the sufferings of old, dependent friends, or to 
promote the worthy children of friends. His heart and bis 
purse were in quick sympathy with worthy objects of charity, 
and institutions devoted to the elevation of the youth of the 

On the Eoanoke farms there w^ere from 500 to 1,000 souls, 
mostly negroes, but be knew tbem all, and in their sickness 
be would send or carry to tbem comforts, and provided his 
own family ])hysician to attend them, with directions to call 
upon him for such things as they might need for comfort or 
cure. He was as truly a patriarch as was Abraham. His 
magnetism and tact were displayed here and were as effective 
in coutrolling bis overseers and laborers and tenants as in 
leadino: men in the hio-her walks of life. They knew that if 

The Transom Bust. 51 

tlic'j did reasonably well tlieir part that "Mars General" 
would provide the physician in sickness and the lawyer when 
necessary to defend them in the courts. He made from 
1,000 to 1,500 bales of cotton each year, and made gi-eat 
profits from his farming. He borrowed money and invested 
in Roanoke farms, whenever they were sold, and those lands 
greatly enhanced in value, and when he died he owned, per- 
haps, more than 25,000 acres of magnificent Roanoke lands. 

It required a genius for aifairs to profitably manage these 
lands with such laborers and tenants as were available; yet, 
with the aid of his sons, who inherited many of his fine 
qualities, he made a great success. 

I was at his funeral at his home where he had lived for 
half a century. There were gathered there scores of dis- 
tinguished men from all parts of the State, and from other 
States, and hundreds of his neighbors and friends and ad- 
mirers, and hundreds of the negroes from his plantations — 
all subdued by the solemnity of the occasion, sorrow ex- 
pressed in every countenance. It was hard for many to 
realize that he could be taken off and still the world go on its 
normal way. They had lost a friend who never failed them, 
a leader whom they could always trust. The sight was pa- 
thetic. The end had come. His kingly form will never 
more be seen — that wonderful voice which so often called the 
people to duty, that unsurpassed art of the diplomat and that 
magnetism will nevermore be heard or seen or felt. A 
grand equestrian statue of him, clad in his Confederate uni- 
form and mounted on his magnificent stallion, Ion, and 
placed on these Capitol grounds, and a life size statue, carved 
by the most cunning sculptor and placed in Statuary Hall 
in the group with the immortal Lee and the gi-eat educator 
and statesman, J. L. M. Curry, with whom he wrought and 
whose admiration he had won, and beside that other grandest 
of men, Zebulon B. Vance, would be a fitting expression of a 
grateful people for his brave deeds and unselfish sacrifices 
for his loved State and Southland, and would do honor to 

52 X(jKTii Carolina IIistokical Com:missiox. 

the State, and Avoukl per})etuate the memory of the superb 
form and manly features of liim wliu was a king' among men. 
X<i]-tli Carolina can not do too nuicdi for liim who did so much 
for her. But the marlde will ciMunhle into dust l)efore the 
iidlnence of his lirave life shall have ended. 

Before closing, let me call your atlention to his last words. 
AVhen he hiK'w that his ni'ssion had ended, and he had re- 
eei\eil a sudden disj^atch to rei)ort to the Heavenly Father, 
his ]i])s were forever closed after utteidng, "])o right, boys, 
always do right I" And then his prayer for the ]iartner in 
all his and)ilion^, sorrows and trium])hs — "God bless your 
mother. I am going.'' Tt was so mitural. In all supreme 
moments he forgot himself, and lived for those he loved so 
well — his vState and his people. 

The Eansom Bust. 53 

Address of Presentation 


Chairman of the North Carolina Historical Commission. 

Youv Excellency : 

This evening we lift the veil and look upon the face of him 
whom all Carolinians knew and loved. It is the image of 
the scholar, the orator, the soldier, the statesman, the patriot 
who loved the South as he loved his life, and loved Xorth 
Carolina even more than the South — the peerless Ransom ! 

Ransom, a name written by fame's crimsoned pen upon 
many a field made sacred to us by Carolina valor and laved 
in Carolina blood. 

Ransom, a name that towered as the Gibraltar of courage 
and right when weaklings cowered and hope had fled, when 
the "Old Mother State" lay prostrate, violated by the alien 
and betrayed by degenerate sons. 

Ransom, a name made great as the defender of the South 
when the raging seas of hate, sectionalism, destruction and 
reconstruction, beating with relentless fury, threatened to en- 
gulf and destroy our civilization. 

Ransom, a name that for twenty-five years was acclaimed 
by all the people of all this country as that of the great 
American who stood for the Constitution and for the inalien- 
able rights of a stricken people. 

Ransom, a name that brings to mind the best traditions of 
the scholarship and chivalry of the old South. 

In his early manhood, Matt AV. Ransom consecrated him- 
self to the welfare of his people, and for half a century the 
virtues, talents and abilities of this great man shone, con- 
spicuous and resplendent, in the service of his State and the 

It is peculiarly fitting that his admiring fellow-countrymen 
should attest their love for him by erecting this beautiful and 

54 NoETii Carolina Historical Commission. 

iiTatefnl tribute to his worth, and rc]ireseiitii)2; them and the 
North Carolina Historical Commission, I have the honor to 
tender to yon for the State of ISTorth Carolina this heroic bust 
of that heroic man. 

The Ransom Bust. 55 

Address of Acceptance 


Governor of North Carolina. 

Mr. Chairman^ Ladies and Gentlemen: 

In behalf of the people of Xortli Carolina who loved him 
so well and honored him so greatly, 1 am glad to accept from 
the State Historical Commission this marble bust of the late 
Matt Whitaker Eansom. 

Of his services in war and in peace, at the bar, on the field 
of battle, on the hustings, in the United States Senate, of his 
great ability, his wise statesmanship, his intrepid courage, 
his unsurjDassed eloquence, his excellent diplomacy, his far- 
reaching patriotism, his handsome personality, it is not for 
me to speak, for well-selected orators have mth striking 
ability portrayed all these splendid qualities to you. The 
lawyer, the soldier, the planter, the public official, the patriot, 
find in his life the type of American citizenship to be 
revered and emulated. He added dignity, wisdom and lus- 
ter to the greatest deliberative body of the world, in which 
sat Blaine, Conkling, Hoar, Ingalls, Carpenter, Bayard, 
Thurman, Vest, Vance, Voorhees, Lamar, Garland, Daniel, 
and others of that galaxy of senatorial giants. ISTorth Caro- 
lina is justly proud of him. His bust will adorn the ro- 
tunda of this Capitol, where his admiring countrymen shall 
be forever reminded of his virtues and his triumphs. 



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